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Taiwan

Taiwan furious after 85C Bakery Cafe bows to mainland backlash over gift bag for Taiwanese president

US branch’s gesture to Tsai Ing-wen while she visited Los Angeles prompts calls on mainland for boycott, then company statement endorsing ‘One China’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 9:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 August, 2018, 10:38am

The Taiwan government has spoken out in defence of a Taiwanese bakery chain that came under pressure from the mainland after one of its US outlets presented a gift to Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, during her stopover in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Following demands for a boycott on its mainland stores, 85C Bakery Cafe said it supported the 1992 Consensus, a political term embodying the “One China” policy, which says that there is only one China, but that Beijing and Taipei can have their own interpretations as to who is rightfully in charge. Tsai herself has not endorsed the consensus.

Warm, high-profile welcome for Taiwanese president in the United States

“The company’s stance of firmly supporting 1992 Consensus has never changed,” 85C Bakery Cafe said in a statement on its mainland China website on Wednesday.

“The company would continue to support the peaceful development in cross-strait relations and deepened cross-strait communications and cooperation while opposing any behaviour and remarks that separate the brotherhood of the two sides.”

Watch: ‘One China’ explained

However, the statement failed to appease many of those angered in China after they discovered it was available only on the company’s website for the mainland market.

Alex Huang, a representative of Taiwan’s presidential office, was critical of pressure on 85C after its statement, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

“It should not be a due behaviour in civil society that anyone tries to force its own ideology onto any international company, and the presidential office condemned any inappropriate behaviour that disturbs market order and freedom of speech,” Huang said.

US denies change to ‘One China’ policy after Tsai’s speech in California

Citing a local Chinese American identified as Lu Xiang, eastday.com, a Shanghai-based news portal, reported on Monday that Tsai had received a gift from an 85C cafe on Sunday night before heading back to her hotel.

In a photo circulated online, Tsai was shown standing in front of the counter of what was believed to be the 85C cafe in Los Angeles and chatting with employees.

Watch: Tsai Ing-wen visits Los Angeles

The visit was also confirmed on Facebook by Tsai Shih-ying, a Democratic Progressive Party politician who accompanied the president during her stay in Los Angeles.

The cafe chain, which has over 600 outlets on the mainland, said one member of staff had presented Tsai with a pillow in the shape of a pineapple bun – a mascot of the company – to sign as a “personal souvenir”.

Tsai’s visit to Paraguay and Belize is widely seen as an effort to cement ties with two of the island’s remaining 18 formal allies in the face of a growing diplomatic squeeze by Beijing.

The statement by the Taiwanese-founded and Cayman Islands-headquartered company comes at a time when tensions between Beijing and Taipei are running high. Tsai, a firm pro-independence president, has refused to endorse the 1992 Consensus since taking office in 2016.